Posts Tagged ‘Amazing Inventions and Concoctions’

The Victorian Invention of the Christmas Card

December 25, 2021

I found this account of how the Victorians invented the Christmas card in the children’s book Amazing Inventions and Concoctions, by Howard Elson, illustrated by Kim Blundell (London: Octopus Book 1988). This says

‘Every Christmas, it’s a great ritual to send out greetings cards to your friends and relatives, and the card industry is a thriving business all over the world.

The Christmas card was first designed in 1843 by an Englishman called J C Horsley for his friend, Sir Henry Cole. The card, printed on stiff brown cardboard, depicted a sketch of a family eating, drinking and making merry. The words, “A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year To You”, were printed underneath. 1000 were put on sale in London.

Americans had to wait 32 years before Christmas cards were introduced in the US by Louis Prang of Boston, Massachusetts.’

The BBC showed a programme on the origin of various Christmas customs the other year, which covered the invention of Christmas cards. According to them, Horlsey invented it because he had so many friends he was tired of having to write complete letters to them all. Well, it’s great to be so popular!

Adrian Wareham’s Robot Farm

December 21, 2021

Adrian Wareham was a farmer, whose hobby was creating robotic animals. I found out about him from a short passage in a children’s book on weird inventions I bought way back in the 1990s, Amazing Inventions and Concoctions, by Howard Elson, illustrated by Kim Blundell. This described how he built an electronic cow:

La Mechanical Cow

Adrian Wareham from Christchurch in Dorset, England, became a dairy farmer with a difference in the autumn of 1987, when he invented the world’s first mechanical cow. She was called Victoria. The cow was made of metal and designed with folding legs and all the mannerisms of a real animal. It was built out of rubbish and discarded parts from an old French Citroen car that Wareham found on the junk heap. It was also capable of travelling at 11.25 kph (7 mph) and made its debut in the great British Wine Transport Race from Sussex, England to Paris, France. There was, however, no truth in the rumour that the cow was invented to produce tinned milk.’

The Cybernetic Zoo, a website on the history of cybernetic animals and early animals, has a page or two on him, reproducing a newspaper or magazine article. Not only did Wareham invent a robot cow, but he also invented a mechanical woman to mow his lawn, a robot dog, and flying pig, well, actually a mechanical pig with wings. He’s also supposed to have created a mechanical spider, but the writer of the Cybernetic Zoo article couldn’t find a picture of that one. Here’s what they looked like from the Cybernetic Zoo website.

I am constantly astonished by the inventiveness and creativity of ordinary people, and do feel that there is considerable potential in this country going wasted. Looking at these bizarre and fun machines, I do feel that there would be a demand for them if someone started manufacturing them. Yes, they’d be toys, but people would enjoy them and buy them for the sheer amusement they provided. There is, however, one question arises looking at them. He didn’t make an electronic sheep. But did the robot woman ever dream of one, as in the title of Philip K. Dick’s best-known novel?

For more information and to see the text and photos more clearly, go to the Cybernetic Zoo at http://cyberneticzoo.com/walking-machines/1987-90-mechanical-animals-adrian-wareham-british/